By on July 14, 2014

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CVTs aren’t the most popular of transmission options around despite its improvements to fuel efficiency and ride on a vehicle so equipped. Nissan hopes an upcoming software tweak will change a few minds, however.

Automotive News reports Nissan will introduce its D-Step Shift logic CVT software to more vehicles for the 2015 model year, including the Versa, Versa Note and Pathfinder. The software, already in the 2014 Rogue and 2013 Altima four-pot, helps the CVT act more like a traditional automatic when it comes to shifting, emphasis on “act.”

On board vehicles like the new Versa, the D-Step will prompt the CVT to jump ahead a gear around 4,000 rpm, creating a brief drop in driving power while lending a sense of gears changing, all to ease Nissan owners’ concerns that their vehicle’s transmission is somehow broken due to the lack of a notable gear change. More models will receive D-Step in 2016.

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34 Comments on “Nissan’s D-Step Tweaks CVTs To Act More Like Traditional Automatics...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    God, this is just stupid: defeating the efficiency of a CVT just so journalists don’t have to whinge. This would be like adding the sound and feeling of a horse cantering to the Model T.

    There’s nothing really wrong with a CVT feeling like a CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      lzaffuto

      The drop in revs certainly won’t help if you’re climbing a hill or passing a car. This should at least be an option the owner can turn off…

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …i recall an extended discussion several years ago regarding a performance-oriented CVT actuated by paddle-shifter, programmed to emulate a stepped gearbox such that the driver maintained control of vehicle balance through engine braking, but affording the flexibility of variable gear ratios to suit changing conditions on the circuit…

      …if one thinks about it hard enough, such a system makes a certain sort of sense from a driver-haptics perspective, but of course its real-world advantage would strongly depend upon software implementation…regardless, i remain unconvinced that any such system doesn’t exhibit a failure of imagination to develop manual controls better-suited to the technology and application at hand…

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I imagine something that would allow you to either lock, or vary the ratio in a stepless fashion. Sort of like a PRND4321, except that D4321 is a sliding control, rather then a stepped one.

        That would be nifty.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Psar

      From what I hear they have been getting mainstream complaints…especially at the dealer level. A buddy of mine who works at a dealership told me about two customers of theirs who were actually asking for money back as they considered it an unfixable problem. I was ragging on him for the cvts at the time, which he likes, so I believe him.

      I’m sure they didn’t get the money BTW. Failure to test drive shouldn’t be nissan’s problem.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Agreed, but they also need to better educate the public about why the CVT is superior. It may be an issue of ignorance, but if you lose sales through failing to educate, you have only yourself to blame.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        This is the problem, people just don’t understand. For years they felt the car “shift” and associated that with the transmission doing its job. When you don’t feel the shift then you assume something is wrong/broken. Ironic in the super smooth shifting has always been a desired trait, yet as soon as they make a tranny that you can’t feel any shifting people complain because its working too well. Oh well I row my own anyway.

        The first time I drove a Nissan CVT (a rental of course) it was an odd sensation that I never fully got used to given I’m a manual guy. However I can see people new to driving (darn kids, get off my lawn) that would find CVT as working “right” and all other transmission types as being “wrong” or broken. Given how electric cars move about (single forward “gear”) CVTs will feel the same, thus this will become the new normal.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I’m thinking more of a “V8 app” that plays in the background in one’s Tesla to help with EVAD (Electric Vehicle Anxiety Disorder)

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> I’m thinking more of a “V8 app”

        How about this idea – linear actuators that ram the seat cushions into your back to give the illusion of faster acceleration. :^) It could enhance the fake shifting and fake engine noise! The cushions could retract with each fake shift.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I don’t know EV Gs are the same as IC Gs and the “fake shifting” gets into CVT territory, but a nicely timed spritz of CO would really be icing on the cake

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      There’s nothing really wrong with a CVT feeling like a CVT.
      ______________________________________________________

      There’s nothing wrong with eating strained peas either but why would one?

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed this is a dumb move. Being a software mod I hope they give the more knowledgeable driver the option to revert to true CVT transmission.

      Simulating gear changes to make people think its changing rather than ‘slipping’ is dumb. Explain via a Youtube video how its always changing and in the ‘right gear’.

      I drove my first CVT back in the 70′s, to think we’ll ‘dumb down’ modern CVT’s is awful.

      Tesla made the Model S as they should have. You put it in gear and nothing happens until you press the accelerator. Customers complained, and they put in ‘creep’ to simulate an auto transmission, so now you have to put your foot on the brake constantly at a red light. Nissan built creep into the LEAF which I could hardly understand when I first test drove it. Why I asked myself? Because they want to make the EV ‘familiar’ to the average driver, but gave me NO OPTION to turn the ‘feature’ off.

      Rather than try and hide the CVT with software they should promote it as a modern transmission, which it is.

  • avatar
    turboprius

    The Rogue would be a great first car for someone if it didn’t have such atrocious visibility. So many people are turned off by the CVT. The CVT is actually a pretty good transmission; it shifts nicely, and there’s some drone, but it isn’t exaggerated like the car community makes it out to be.

    I drove it in my cul-de-sac a few weeks ago, and aside from a spinout (which I forgot how it happened), I did just fine.

    So, the Rogue is an easy car to learn to drive, even for someone who hasn’t bothered to look at the driving manual yet.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      This, drove a friends Rouge from Cleveland to Louisville Kentucky and back, thank god for the rear view camera. That rear window is tiny!

      • 0 avatar
        turboprius

        Ours is a 2008, bought it when the 2009s were rolling in. Backup camera didn’t become available until the 2011 model year.

        You’re lucky! Thankfully, our RAV4 has a backup camera in the mirror, and we also have a regular cab Ford Ranger, so, the Rogue is the only visibility black mark in our household.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Or as silly as piping simulated engine noise into the cabin to “enhance” the driving experience. Oh? Nevermind.

    I think the makers of CVTs should simply focus on building a bulletproof product. If consumers are largely buying a driving “appliance”, they’ll appreciate the better fuel mileage and lower maintenance requirements.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    What makes this tweak work is the fact that speed matches revs under acceleration. The “brief drop in power” is just a side effect when the engine gets to the top of its efficient power band.

    I don’t think that this will be measurably less efficient. It’s not a racing two stroke with a 250 rev power band. The plus side is that it won’t feel like you’re driving a blender.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Nissan’s bigger problem is that they switched to cvt’s while also removing the manual option from cars that had that consumer base built in. A maxima loyalist currently has no option but to leave the brand if they don’t like the (predictably controversial) transmission option. This process is guaranteed to generate noise.

    I’d call it a failure on the product planners part. They didn’t understand the technology’s effects on the product when building out their trim levels. They also probably didn’t have a finger on the pulse enough to realize they did have enthusiast customers.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This is completely stupid. CVTs aren’t just more efficient because they can continuously vary the gear ratio — they’re also smoother. Don’t dumb them down by forcing rough “shifts” that take the engine out of its powerband and reduce efficiency at the same time; instead, teach people that they’re different from conventional automatics and should feel different.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Why do you think that the shifts will take the engine out of its powerband? Many modern engines produce maximum torque from 1500 nearly to the red line. Having simulated fixed gear ratios in thousand or fifteen hundred RPM steps makes very little efficiency difference.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Why do you think that the shifts will take the engine out of its powerband?”

        Probably not the right term: a CVT operates the engine at it’s most efficient state for a given task. If you don’t apply throttle, it’ll keep it at ~2200rpm or lower; if you do, it will zing to ~4500-6000 and sit there as the CVT’s ratios change.

        The point is, it doesn’t allow the engine to sit at a suboptimal state for the task at hand; adding shift points lowers the efficiency of the whole powertrain.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    My daughter’s Outlander Sport does this in a way that I believe is the correct one: Let the driver decide.
    An “Eco” mode where the CVT behaves as a CVT would; and a “Sports” mode in where it shifts thru 6 presets like a normal auto would.

    Interestingly enough, the top ratio on the “Sport” mode is a little taller than in the “normal” mode.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “…and a “Sports” mode in where it shifts thru 6 presets like a normal auto would.”

      A true “Sports” mode would just hold maximum power/torque more readily. It’d be faster, too.

      What you’re describing would be better termed “Luddite Mode”

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I’d love to see a choice of ECO CVT mode, Performance CVT, and fake 6 speed. It’s just software, and it could get drivers used to the CVT feel. For those of us that use the throttle to modulate weight transfer whatever responds quickly and predictably is fine, anything that either pauses or rolls the dice can go straight to the outside barrier without me, thanks. If the easiest way to gain control over when it will compression brake vs. “downshift for efficiency” is fake “gears”, that’s hardly “Luddite Mode”. Until it’s smart enough to take lateral G’s, steering input, ascent/descent grade etc. into account and reliably come up with a good answer I want my clutch.

  • avatar
    ajla

    CVT drone noise is torture and I would turn into Jack Torrance after a week with one.

  • avatar
    Banger

    I, for one, think this is a dumb move by Nissan. I just test-drove a new Rogue and found this more annoying than I’ve ever found the previous-generation CVTs in Nissans.

    That said, for those of you wanting the best-of-all-worlds, all you need to do is buy a Subaru Forester XT. http://www.technologytell.com/in-car-tech/3385/fun-with-forester-we-find-out-the-subaru-forester-is-more-nimble-than-its-size-suggests/

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Finally, a discussion to replace the classic automatic vs stick drone. Automatic drivers everywhere thank you for they now can officially hold their heads high and look down their collective noses at CVT drivers with fake shift points

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Problem 1: Rolling friction: chainlike device continuously engaging, disengaging, hard enough to grip, but not so hard as to wear too fast.

    Compare that to real gears, engaged with STATIC friction (clutch packs and bands wear only during the fraction of a second during the shift). Otherwise gears pretty much lasts the life car.

    Which makes more sense in the long run? (Overheat isn’t just a ‘let it cool’ annoyance like on a conventional transmission. Probably your ready for a multithousand repair bill. This is not a rare occurrence.

    Problem 2: nothing comparable to a true kickdown (multigear jumps in many transmissions). If you want to take off fast you need to change gear ratio, fast and solid.

    Problem 3: decreasing need. Engines with modern injection, variable cam timing etc are getting wider and wider ‘sweet spots’. Combined with multi gear automatics, there is less and less practical need for continuous variability.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      So what you’re saying that even though CVTs are a relatively new phenomenon on the auto scene they are already becoming obsolete because of multiple other drivetrain improvements… Interesting

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Another issue is the parasitic loss due to the high pressure pump required to actuate the variator pulleys. Ford bailed on the CVT mainly because it didn’t provide the hoped for fuel economy improvement (they used a ZF unit in the 500/Freestyle/Montego) when compared to the 6F50.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Does the prior programming have the “classic” CVT behavior of the revs sitting at a certain rpm under acceleration? Honda’s solution as implemented in the Accord varies rpm as speed increases, so aside from the lack of upshifts, is very natural, nicely done overall, and wouldn’t take much adjustment time.

    These “forced shifts” aren’t going to help these Nissan CVTs, which are not known for their reliability as it is!

  • avatar
    Joss

    I wish Nissan NA would step more effort into all wheel disc brakes across the passenger line.

    And the Micra’s tiny motor sure would benefit from CVT on the highway instead of that el-cheapo Mexican 4-sp.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    I’d like to see paddleshifters that act like rheostats – i.e. I hold the left one and the gear ratio slowly increases. Hold it back harder and it increases faster. The reverse for the right paddle (to decrease ratio – “higher gear”)

    That may be ony tranny that would get me out of a manual trans.

  • avatar
    V6

    i rented a CVT Corolla a few weeks back (Auris, not US version), was my first decent experience with a CVT and I really enjoyed it. The only time I didn’t like it too much was under heavy acceleration from a stop but otherwise it’s general smoothness and hill climbing ability without chopping and changing between gears was a much better experience than the Powershift Focus or Cruze. It would be one of the few times I’ve driven a car on hills/open road and not ever needed to take manual control using tiptronic etc. Also liked how the speed doesn’t increase down hill.
    I’d prefer the CVT to remain acting like a CVT and not mimic a traditional auto.


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